IOLANTHE – SF Symphony Presents Gilbert & Sullivan Operetta, June 18th – 21st

George Manahan, NYC Opera Music Director, to replace Michael Tilson Thomas as conductor
Joyce Castle will sing the “Queen of the Fairies”

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) performs a semi-staged version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s light opera IOLANTHE June 18th – 21st at Davies Symphony Hall. George Manahan, Music Director of New York City Opera, will conduct in place of San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas who has withdrawn from these concerts.  These are the first San Francisco Symphony performances of Iolanthe. Iolanthe is staged by the award-winning theater and film director and choreographer Patricia Birch, who also staged the SFS’s productions of The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater (2005 and 2008); Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol, and George and Ira Gershwin’s Let ‘Em Eat Cake and Of Thee I Sing (2005). Scenic designer Douglas Schmidt (The Thomaskefskys, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, Let ‘Em Eat Cake and Of Thee I Sing), is creating the sets. Kirk Bookman, the lighting designer for the above-mentioned productions, does the lighting for Iolanthe. The costume designer is Dona Granata, who also costumed the Gershwin and Stravinsky pieces as well as The Thomashefskys. Click here to visit: IOLANTHE

George Manahan, W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan

George Manahan, W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan


 
Iolanthe (Sasha Cooke) is a fairy who married a mortal – an unforgiveable sin. The couple has fathered a half mortal-half fairy son, Strephon (Lucas Meachem), who himself is in a love predicament. The woman who loves him, Phyllis (Sally Matthews) cannot marry him without consent from the Lord Chancellor (Richard Suart) – who in turn loves Phyllis. In a twist only likely in real life, Lord Chancellor also turns out to be Iolanthe’s former husband, and the father of Strephon.

Joélle Harvey (Leila) and Sasha Cooke (Iolanthe)

Joélle Harvey (Leila) and Sasha Cooke (Iolanthe)

To circumvent all the legal, moral and ethical complications that would necessarily ensue if love could follow its natural, uncontrollable course, Lord Chancellor decides to simply alter the law by inserting a key word: “don’t.” The absurd new rule: “Every fairy shall die who don’t marry a mortal.” In this funny and acerbic sendup of the war between the sexes and its merciless skewering of the House of Lords and English law, Lord Chancellor himself is conveniently reunited with Iolanthe. Phyllis and Strephon are free to marry each other, a suitable husband turns up for the Queen of the Fairies (Joyce Castle, replacing Felicity Palmer), and everyone flits away, happily ever after.
 

SALLY MATTHEWS (Phyllis) and Ginger Costa-Jackson (Celia)

SALLY MATTHEWS (Phyllis) and Ginger Costa-Jackson (Celia)

Iolanthe was first produced in 1882, opening the renowned Savoy Theater in London. It followed the Gilbert & Sullivan successes of H.M.S. Pinafore (1878) and The Pirates of Penzance (1879).  Sullivan’s music encompasses influences from Verdi’s Aida to Mozart’s big finales, heard in the finale of Iolanthe’s Act I, and musical highlights including songs such as “Oh, foolish fay,” which many consider as Sullivan’s best song. Lord Chancellor’s nightmare is the most well-known number in the operetta, and his patter song, de rigeur for Sullivan’s comic baritone leads, is perhaps the most full-realized of all these pieces. Iolanthe’s plea on behalf of her son, “He loves!”, is another memorable musical and dramatic highlight.
 

JOYCE CASTLE (Faerie Queen) and ALFIE BOE (Thomas)

JOYCE CASTLE (Faerie Queen) and ALFIE BOE (Thomas)

Michael Tilson Thomas expressed disappointment that he would be unable to conduct the concerts. “This year continues to be filled with many extraordinary demands on my Symphony schedule, and after much deliberation, I have concluded with great regret that I should entrust the rigorous demands of overseeing a staged production, Gilbert & Sullivan’s marvelous Iolanthe, to New York City Opera’s George Manahan. My regret, however, is tempered by the knowledge that our audience—and Gilbert & Sullivan’s delightful work—will be served so well, under the leadership of an artist steeped in the tradition of opera and musical theater.”
 
George Manahan, in his eleventh season as Music Director at New York City Opera, has conducted repertoire ranging from opera to the concert stage, the traditional to the contemporary. He first conducted the San Francisco Symphony during 1989’s New and Unusual Music series. He returned in 1991 to lead the Orchestra in concerts of the music of Haydn, Mendelssohn and Stravinsky. In additional to regular guest appearances with major national and international orchestras and opera companies, he served as acting Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony for four seasons, principal conductor for Minnesota Opera, and music director of the Richmond Symphony. He was chosen as the Exxon Arts Endowment Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony and debuted with the Santa Fe Opera conducting the American premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s opera Von Heute Auf Morgen. He has conducted numerous world premieres, including Wuorinen’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Tobias Picker’s Emmeline and many others. Manahan’s many appearances on television include productions of La bohème, Lizzie Borden, and Tosca on PBS. Live from Lincoln Center’s telecast of New York City Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly under his direction won a 2007 Emmy Award.
 

Lucas Meachem (Strephon) and Paul Whelan (George)

Lucas Meachem (Strephon) and Paul Whelan (George)

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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